Nobel Prize winning bonanza

By Tom Tugend, October 10, 2013
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Nobel Prize winner Francois Englert (Photo: PA)

Nobel Prize winner Francois Englert (Photo: PA)

It has been a remarkable few days for Jewish scientists.

There were six Jews among the eight Nobel Prize winners announced this week, three of whom are Israeli citizens or have close ties to Israeli universities.

Arieh Warshel, Michael Levitt and Martin Karplus shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Profs Warshel and Levitt hold dual Israeli and American citizenship, while Prof Karplus fled with his parents after the Nazi takeover of his native Austria.

The three were honoured for developing models for complex chemical processes, such as photosynthesis.

Prof Warshel and Prof Levitt both studied at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The prize for medicine was shared by Jewish scientists James Rothman of Yale and Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley. The third recipient was German-born Thomas Sudhof of Stanford.

The three were recognised for their discovery of “vesicle traffic”, the process by which proteins and other materials are transported within cells.

The most publicised award in the sciences this year went to physicists Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium. They are credited with predicting the existence of the Higgs boson, better known as the “God particle”.

Prof Englert is a Jewish Holocaust survivor and holds a special research appointment at Tel Aviv University.

He is also a master of understatement, even for a theoretical physicist. When reporters called him and asked for his reaction on winning the Nobel Prize, Prof Englert responded, “You may imagine that this is not very unpleasant, of course.”

The monetary award for winning the Nobel Prize is $1.8 million, which is shared among the recipients in each category.

Still to be announced, as of Wednesday, are the new Nobel Laureates in literature, peace, and economic science.

Last updated: 12:06pm, October 10 2013